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iv

EXTRACT FROM CANON BAMPTON'S WILL.

"Also I direct and appoint, that the eight Divinity "Lecture Sermons shall be preached upon either of the "following Subjects-to confirm and establish the Chris"tian Faith, and to confute all heretics and schismatics"upon the divine authority of the holy Scriptures-upon "the authority of the writings of the primitive Fathers, as "to the faith and practice of the primitive Church-upon "the Divinity of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christupon the Divinity of the Holy Ghost-upon the Articles "of the Christian Faith, as comprehended in the Apostles' "and Nicene Creeds.

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"Also I direct, that thirty copies of the eight Divinity "Lecture Sermons shall be always printed, within two "months after they are preached, and one copy shall be "given to the Chancellor of the University, and one copy "to the Head of every College, and one copy to the Mayor "of the city of Oxford, and one copy to be put into the "Bodleian Library; and the expense of printing them shall "be paid out of the revenue of the Land or Estates given "for establishing the Divinity Lecture Sermons; and the "Preacher shall not be paid, nor be entitled to the revenue, "before they are printed.

"Also I direct and appoint, that no person shall be qualified to preach the Divinity Lecture Sermons, unless "he hath taken the degree of Master of Arts at least, in "one of the two Universities of Oxford or Cambridge; "and that the same person shall never preach the Divinity "Lecture Sermons twice."

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PREFACE.

It is not an unusual effect of taking a particular view of a subject, to give the appearance of overlooking another view of it, no less important than that immediately presented. This is particularly the case in a question of religion, in which the mind naturally fixes its eye on the divine part of the argument: and we are apt accordingly to regard that as altogether slighted, because it is not ostensibly brought under our survey.

I wish therefore to obviate any such misconception of my design, in regard to the observations contained in the present course of Lectures. I am exclusively engaged in considering what I may call a human section of the complex history of Christianity. But I would not, at the same time, be thought insensible to the divine part of the history; or to forget, even for a moment, the holy Agent himself by whom the great work, in

all its sacred outlines and living energy, has been

wonderfully wrought.

I request accordingly, that it may be remembered throughout, what is the immediate and restricted business of my inquiry: that it presupposes a Divine origin to the Christian revelation, and a superintending Providence over its whole course. This is my point of departure. Assuming that the Holy Spirit has not been unfaithful to his charge over the church of Christ, I have endeavoured to take some account of that resistance, which the human agent has opposed to the diffusion of the truth as it was purely inspired. A work of Christian evidences would have for its leading idea the operation of the Divine Author and Guardian of the Faith. Take, for instance, the Gospels, or the Acts of the Apostles and it is the facts bearing on the character of the Divine Being and the Divine dispensations, which are solely or prominently brought to view. Human sentiments and conduct are the mirror in which the work of God is reflected. Or take any merely human treatise on the evidences of Christianity and the object will be found to be, to detect, amidst the various circumstances which

have accompanied the rise and propagation of the Gospel, the indications of a power, wisdom, and goodness, more than human. As the present, however, is not a work of evidences, but a particular view of the connexion of human philosophy with the given truths of the Scriptures, the agency of man here forms the leading idea: and this therefore I have singled out for particular observation.

There seems indeed to be an unreasonable jealousy in regard to any attempt to describe the importance of the human means concerned in the establishment and maintenance of the Gospel truth. There is a proneness in professed defenders of Christianity, as also in the Christian in general, to overstate the argument in its favour. Whatever detracts accordingly from their own undue estimate, they are apt to regard as taking so much from the real evidence of Christianity. But let us not estimate the cares of the Author of our salvation for the security of his work, by the standard of our fears. Let the human agents whom he has employed in the furtherance of it, have contributed their utmost either to support or to thwart what He has begun, the work still

remains his. As in the natural world; corruption and disease may mark for their own the fairest works of the Divine hand, but cannot unmake them so neither are we to suppose that the superintendence of Christ over his Church no longer exists, because the fields of his vineyard have been overrun with thorns and weeds.

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